By Carlos A. Quiroga

Bolivia took another step on Friday to join Mercosur group as a full member, while still belonging to the Andean Community. Indeed, it repeated the step taken three years ago, that failed to receive approval from all the members.

If the new process is successful, and nobody doubts it will be, Bolivia will become the only country that fully participates in the two main groups of South American integration.

In Mercosur, Bolivia will rub shoulders with the biggest economy in the region, Brazil, and another important partner, Argentina. Both countries are by far Bolivias most important trade partners, mainly for purchases of natural gas.

Bolivia will also have new partners like Uruguay and Paraguay, potential buyers of gas and electricity, that the government of La Paz offers to international buyers.

The other partner will be Venezuela, a country that resigned from the Andean Community before becoming a Mercosur member, searching for both business opportunities and “anti-imperialist” political affinity.

At the same time, Bolivia will maintain its alliance with Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, in the Andean group.

For Bolivia, it seems the time has come to establish itself as the axis of continental integration.

But many Bolivians doubt whether the country will actually benefit from such a privileged position, and whether it will be able to face challenges.

The example set by the Andean Community, after 46 years of existence, is not very encouraging: much rhetoric and too many conventions, agreements, declarations, etc, but few business results, as evidenced by the fact that the two main Bolivian partners are outside the Andean group.

For now, Bolivia and its indigenous President Evo Morales have to wait for Paraguay and Brazil to finally ratify the agreement that will put the Andean country in Mercosur. Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela have already given their approval.

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